On Trust and Fear: 8 things I believe

March 21, 2012

My life’s calling and the work I do at this site are rooted in these 8 beliefs. I offer them with the heart-felt wish that they catalyze much in the broader conversation on fear and trust. If they move/challenge/ruffle/inspire you, please pass them on!

1. I believe fear is the root of every problem we create.

Fear disconnects us from compassion and clouds clear thought. It compels us to run, fight, or go limp in the face of perceived threats, and display all the subtler versions of these things (drivenness to do or to fix, compulsive rumination, savior complexes, stunting co-dependency, inability to commit, jealousy, suspicion, defensiveness, clinging, isolation, despair).

Name a human-made problem, and fear is at its root.

2. I believe aggressive attempts to get rid of fear only increase its power.

Fear, at heart, is not a monster. It’s a vulnerable child. So while metaphors that “slay” or “tame” or “control” or “whip it into submission” may silence its overt displays, they cannot transform it into true security or peace. In fact, when overt displays of fear are silenced, its subtler, less conscious forms are forced to surface (e.g. anger, irritability, compulsions, physical illness), wreaking just as much havoc, and in many cases, more than overt fear itself.

You can’t scare the hell out of anyone. You can only scare it into them.

3. I believe trust is the antidote to fear’s effects.

Trust is the opposite of fear, and has its inverse effects. Where fear separates, trust brings together. Where fear blurs and enmeshes, trust clarifies and untangles. Where fear disconnects us from compassion, trust ignites and re-engages us with it.

Fear hardens, breaks, tightens, and embrittles.
Trust softens, strengthens, emboldens, e x p a n d s.

Trust is not blind reliance on everyone or everything, but rather a posture toward people and life that assumes good can come from, and may be infused in, all things. It assumes that life is a benevolent and mysterious teacher, and that there isn’t a person, a circumstance, or even death itself that can diminish the goodness available to us when we open to it.

4. I believe trust-tending is a choice.

No matter the cards we’ve been dealt, no matter the personality, wounds or life experiences we carry, we are not destined to a fearful, hopeless, or even agnostic story. We can’t know definitively whether life is worth trusting, but we can consciously turn our bodies, minds, and spirits toward the possibility of life’s deep goodness and move, with large or small and faltering steps, in that direction.

Trust-tending itself is not an obligation, nor is it a “should”. But those who choose it as a practice walk lives rich in hope, joy, wonder, and increasing peace.

5. I believe trust can be powerfully cultivated by small steps over time.

Though nourished by daily choices, trust is not best grown by force of will. (See #2 above. Bullying our fears into trusting is oxymoronic.)

Instead, trust is best tended like a garden. Start cultivating anywhere (in a relationship, a hobby, a vocational pursuit) and watch, with time, the wonders that ensue.

Like towering trees that started out as seeds, trust grows.

6. I believe trust and fear can coexist.

Though trust is fear’s opposite (and feels really good in isolation), the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Human hearts (and egos…) are complex, and capable of holding both simultaneously. Our bodies are, too.

Our challenge is to act from our trust, rather than our fear – to consciously put trust in our driver’s seat, again and again and again (and again). The more we do this, the more it happens instinctually as fears arise.

7. I believe tipping points can happen, where trust increases exponentially.

As with those who meditate or do yoga, those who cultivate trust can experience huge spurts of growth, where fear-based patterns and beliefs seem to fall away and open out into new vistas of trust. These are periods where the slog-slog-slogness more typical of the practice bursts into “A-has!” and the feeling of getting downloads from the universe.

These aren’t the norm and even those who experience them experience far more periods of incremental growth, over time. But they do happen.

8. I believe trust is contagious.

When you tend trust, you’re never alone. The seeds of trust you personally tend (in your thoughts, your writings, your work, your relationships, your lifestyle, in what you create) affect everyone: your partner, your kids, your friends, your colleagues, policy-makers, the bagger at the grocery. They create powerful ripples that make tangible differences in the world we’re all creating.

On the flip side, when your trust wavers and your fears loom large, spending time in the presence of those whose trust runs deep is a powerful form of self AND world care.

In the presence of trust, we are like flowers, opening toward sun.

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What do you believe about trust? What has been your experience with it? Which of these points resonates for you and which feels most challenging? I’d truly love to know!

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19 comments   |   Filed in: Meditations   |   Tags: ,   |  


  1. Hi Kristen,

    I saw a link to this article in a Tweet today and I’m glad I clicked it. I often explore the role that fear has in my life and the life of others but can’t communicate it as eloquently as you have. Way to go in creating a mini “fear and trust manifesto”! I’m sharing this article now with a bunch of folks I know will appreciate and get some benefit from it.

    Take care,

    Comment by Joel Zaslofsky - Enlightened Resource Management — March 21, 2012 @ 1:23 pm
  2. Delighted to meet you, Joel, and grateful for your kindness!

    Comment by Kristin — March 21, 2012 @ 1:40 pm
  3. When I totally lose faith in the way things are I come here and get faith back. Thank you!!

    Comment by Pamela — March 21, 2012 @ 1:52 pm
  4. Wow. I couldn’t hope for a better effect, Pamela. Much love to you!

    Comment by Kristin — March 21, 2012 @ 2:00 pm
  5. Thank you. This whole post is beautiful. I especially resonate with this sentence: “We can’t know definitively whether life is worth trusting, but we can consciously turn our bodies, minds, and spirits toward the possibility of life’s deep goodness and move, with large or small and faltering steps, in that direction.” You’ve captured the shift I have been making, oh so slowly, but oh so surely over the past year or so. The accumulation of small steps, both forwards and backwards, sideways and diagonal, does make a long journey, and it helps to think back and see how far we’ve come.

    Comment by Lucy — March 21, 2012 @ 2:53 pm
  6. Lucy, I love the image of all those directions of steps. :) That really is how it is, isn’t it? And yes, taking stock every now and again can really be a boost. I’m so happy to hear that these are steps you’ve been taking.

    Comment by Kristin — March 21, 2012 @ 8:03 pm
  7. Love this post…x

    Comment by fiona — March 22, 2012 @ 2:01 am
  8. [...] tiny conversation got me thinking about fear. For a long time I was afraid of selling my car, giving away my stuff, and even moving into my tiny [...]

    Pingback by Two Feet — March 22, 2012 @ 9:01 am
  9. Which one resonates most with me? All of them! My word for 2012 is boldness, but after a recent a-ha moments where I realized the source of the fear that has often defined my life, your words made me realize that for me living with boldness is really about living out of trust not fear. While I haven’t used that phrase before, there’s been a lot of “trust-tending” in my life over the past year and and slowly the fear is letting go, and there is a depth of freedom, trust and joy that I didn’t know before.

    Comment by Karen C — March 22, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
  10. [...] - Tiny House Swoon. – Try and Strip Off Your Fear. – A lovely post, by Kristin Noelle, about fear and trust. [...]

    Pingback by Inspiring Links: Talks, Bikes & Tiny Homes — March 23, 2012 @ 6:57 am
  11. “Fear disconnects us from compassion and clouds clear thought.”

    I’m sitting with #1 for right now. The word “compassion” is my word-of-the-year and I have noticed that giving into it a bit has resulted in a different kind of assertiveness, I just hadn’t thought the two were connected. It would seem that they are. While I certainly don’t feel “fearless”, maybe I am acting more out of compassion (and trust) and the fear of saying/doing/being the wrong thing just slips away … ?

    Comment by Renee — March 23, 2012 @ 12:08 pm
  12. That sounds absolutely right to me, Renee. Compassion and ego-protection (i.e. fear of saying/doing/being the wrong thing) seem inversely correlated. Pity feels like it’s connected to our egos, but compassion feels like it puts us out of the center of ego’s grip. That’s really cool that you’re experiencing more assertiveness as you focus more on compassion. I love it!

    Comment by Kristin — March 23, 2012 @ 7:51 pm
  13. Brilliant post! I absolutely agree that human problems are rooted in fear. I often hear people talk about fear vs. greed as though they are opposites. But I believe that greed is simply a manifestation of fear. Greedy people are “needy” people, regardless of how much or little they have. They are afraid of not getting enough (money, food, attention) and so are always grasping for more. It seems to me that people who trust that what they need will be available to them as they need it don’t have to grab for more than what they need today. Does that make sense to you?

    Comment by Marie — March 24, 2012 @ 8:48 am
  14. Marie, yes, that makes a lot of sense. We often picture greed as an evil lust in the eye when really it may be a childlike part of us that’s overjoyed in that exuberant, childlike way, at the possibility of a big fear not having to get lived out. Like, “This is almost too good to be true!! What luck!!”

    Comment by Kristin — March 24, 2012 @ 11:29 pm
  15. I found my way to you and this post via Tammy’s post on Rowdy Kittens. I’ve recently been setting aside post-reading as an important part of my day some days. Sunday is often one and though I liked the entire post and its resonance, I especially found myself smiling that interior smile of finding someone I’m so glad to BE meeting, through the wild ways of the internet in this ~ “Our challenge is to act from our trust, rather than our fear – to consciously put trust in our driver’s seat, again and again and again (and again). The more we do this, the more it happens instinctually as fears arise.” Thank you for making it simple.

    Comment by Currie Silver — March 25, 2012 @ 12:06 pm
  16. So delighted to meet you, too Currie! Thank you for your kind words.

    Comment by Kristin — March 25, 2012 @ 2:28 pm
  17. [...] On Trust and Fear: 8 Things I Believe – Trust Tending [...]

    Pingback by Link Love (28/05/2012) « Becky's Kaleidoscope — May 28, 2012 @ 8:18 am
  18. Thank you for these inspiring words. It really helps.

    Comment by zimt-peppermint — June 13, 2012 @ 2:08 am
  19. Hi, I really enjoyed the article, at first I couldn’t see how fear could be the opposite of trust, but I like the way you laid it out. I was always thinking that I was trusting but fearing that that trust would be betrayed or let down. I have a better understanding. Basically when your trust is betrayed it can cause fear. But if you don’t allow fear in you can continue to move on and be positive. Also I do believe that fear causes a lot of problems. It’s the reason people lie and neglect communication. Great read. I’m currently a man seeking growth from fear, pain, negativity, and disappointment. This is for me, because it’s been hurting me, but it has also be wrecking my relationship, and I don’t want to lose my woman. Looking forward to more articles.

    Comment by Andrew — January 14, 2016 @ 8:35 pm

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